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Cheaper power is key to Mount Holly: Century

Keywords: Tags  Century Aluminum, Michael Bless, Mount Holly plant, South Carolina plant, Alcoa, Santee Cooper, smelter, casthouse ingot

CHICAGO — Century Aluminum Co. said a cheaper power contract is necessary to keep its jointly owned smelter in Mount Holly, S.C., in production.

"This is a terrific plant. But thus far, the long-term power costs the utility has been showing us don’t support the operations of any smelter," Century president and chief executive officer Michael A. Bless said Nov. 4 during an earnings conference call with analysts.

Under the terms of the deal, Chicago-based Century must give notice by the end of December on whether it intends to terminate a master agreement with Moncks Corner, S.C.-based power provider Santee Cooper, he said, noting that the contract runs through the end of December 2015.

"Various parties have been working on this for the better part of a year. We’ve already mutually extended that notice date a few times," Bless said. "We’re working really hard with all the applicable parties here, including the state government of South Carolina at its very highest levels."

Century owns a 49.67-percent interest in the Mount Holly plant, with Pittsburgh-based aluminum producer Alcoa Inc. holding a majority interest, according to Century’s website.

The Mount Holly facility employs about 600 people and has a production capacity of 224,000 tonnes per year. It was built in 1980 and is the most recently constructed aluminum reduction facility in the United States, the website said. Its casting equipment makes molten aluminum into ingot, extrusion billet and other value-added products.

North American aluminum companies, both primary and secondary producers, have been wrangling for lower power rates from government authorities and power suppliers (, Oct. 30 and Oct. 18).

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